Alternative Egyptology

Critical essays on the relation between academic and alternative interpretations of ancient Egypt

Edited by B.J.L. van den Bercken | 2024

Alternative Egyptology

Critical essays on the relation between academic and alternative interpretations of ancient Egypt

Edited by B.J.L. van den Bercken | 2024


Paperback ISBN: 9789464261615 | Hardback ISBN: 9789464261622 | Imprint: Sidestone Press | Format: 182x257mm | 182 pp. | Language: English | 20 illus. (bw) | 50 illus. (fc) | Keywords: early Egyptology; Egyptosophy; Egyptomania; Orion correlation theory; psychoactive plants, Egypt in comic books and science fiction; Sino-Egyptian alternative history; freemasonry | download cover | DOI: 10.59641/rho5a4ij

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From a mummy on board the Titanic to the pyramids’ alignment with the stars, from psychoactive mushrooms to the lost realm of Atlantis: alternative interpretations of ancient Egypt, often summarised as ‘alternative Egyptology’, have always focused on subjects that others shunned. Ever since the birth of scholarly Egyptology with the decipherment of the hieroglyphic script two hundred years ago, alternative interpretations and imaginative theories have flourished alongside it. They intertwined with egalitarian and spiritual tendencies in society during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when ancient Egypt inspired countless mediums, artists, and movements from freemasonry to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. More recently alternative interpretations have inspired comic-book authors and nationalist Chinese bloggers.

It would be a mistake, however, for academics to simply view these alternative theories as fantasies that are best ignored. Their lasting popular impact needs to be assessed and (publicly) addressed by Egyptology, but they may in fact also open up fresh perspectives for research. The contributors to this volume critically explore various aspects of ‘alternative Egyptology’, assessing its impact on society and scholarship, and finding ways for Egyptology to relate to it.

Introduction
Ben van den Bercken

Lifting the Veil of Isis: Egyptian Reception and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Caroline Tully

‘Someone Who Has Power and Who Understands’: Egyptology, Egyptosophy and the ‘Truth’ about Ancient Egypt
Jasmine Day

Aleister Crowley’s Egypt: The Stele of Revealing
Maiken Mosleth King

Measurement Standards and Double Standards: Reassessing Charles Piazzi Smyth’s Egyptological Reputation
Daniel Potter

The Orion Correlation Theory: Past, Present, and Future?
Willem van Haarlem

High Times in Ancient Egypt
Andrea Sinclair

Batman and the Book of the Dead: Alternative Egyptology or ‘Just for Fun’?
Arnaud Quertinmont

Sphinxes of Mars: Science, Fiction, and Nineteenth-Century Ancient Aliens
Eleanor Dobson

Dr Paul Schliemann: Reality or Fake News?
Jean-Pierre Pätznick

Was Narmer a Chinese emperor? Alternative History of Ancient Egypt in China
Tian Tian

The Occult Egyptian Mural Discovered in a Brazilian Freemasons’ Temple
Thomas Henrique de Toledo Stella

The Royal Son of the Sun: Christian Egyptosophy and Victorian Egyptology in the Egyptian Romances of H. Rider Haggard
Simon Magus

The Pillar of Fire and the Sea of Reeds: Identifying the Locations along the Route of the Exodus
Huub Pragt

Epilogue
Willem van Haarlem

Ben van den Bercken MA

Ben van den Bercken (MA) studied Egyptian Archaeology at Leiden University and Museum Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He worked at excavations in Alexandria and as an assistant-curator in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden (RMO). Since 2021 he is curator for the Ancient Egypt and Sudan collection at the Allard Pierson – the collections of the University of Amsterdam.

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Abstract:

From a mummy on board the Titanic to the pyramids’ alignment with the stars, from psychoactive mushrooms to the lost realm of Atlantis: alternative interpretations of ancient Egypt, often summarised as ‘alternative Egyptology’, have always focused on subjects that others shunned. Ever since the birth of scholarly Egyptology with the decipherment of the hieroglyphic script two hundred years ago, alternative interpretations and imaginative theories have flourished alongside it. They intertwined with egalitarian and spiritual tendencies in society during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when ancient Egypt inspired countless mediums, artists, and movements from freemasonry to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. More recently alternative interpretations have inspired comic-book authors and nationalist Chinese bloggers.

It would be a mistake, however, for academics to simply view these alternative theories as fantasies that are best ignored. Their lasting popular impact needs to be assessed and (publicly) addressed by Egyptology, but they may in fact also open up fresh perspectives for research. The contributors to this volume critically explore various aspects of ‘alternative Egyptology’, assessing its impact on society and scholarship, and finding ways for Egyptology to relate to it.

Contents

Introduction
Ben van den Bercken

Lifting the Veil of Isis: Egyptian Reception and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Caroline Tully

‘Someone Who Has Power and Who Understands’: Egyptology, Egyptosophy and the ‘Truth’ about Ancient Egypt
Jasmine Day

Aleister Crowley’s Egypt: The Stele of Revealing
Maiken Mosleth King

Measurement Standards and Double Standards: Reassessing Charles Piazzi Smyth’s Egyptological Reputation
Daniel Potter

The Orion Correlation Theory: Past, Present, and Future?
Willem van Haarlem

High Times in Ancient Egypt
Andrea Sinclair

Batman and the Book of the Dead: Alternative Egyptology or ‘Just for Fun’?
Arnaud Quertinmont

Sphinxes of Mars: Science, Fiction, and Nineteenth-Century Ancient Aliens
Eleanor Dobson

Dr Paul Schliemann: Reality or Fake News?
Jean-Pierre Pätznick

Was Narmer a Chinese emperor? Alternative History of Ancient Egypt in China
Tian Tian

The Occult Egyptian Mural Discovered in a Brazilian Freemasons’ Temple
Thomas Henrique de Toledo Stella

The Royal Son of the Sun: Christian Egyptosophy and Victorian Egyptology in the Egyptian Romances of H. Rider Haggard
Simon Magus

The Pillar of Fire and the Sea of Reeds: Identifying the Locations along the Route of the Exodus
Huub Pragt

Epilogue
Willem van Haarlem

Ben van den Bercken MA

Ben van den Bercken (MA) studied Egyptian Archaeology at Leiden University and Museum Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He worked at excavations in Alexandria and as an assistant-curator in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden (RMO). Since 2021 he is curator for the Ancient Egypt and Sudan collection at the Allard Pierson – the collections of the University of Amsterdam.

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